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Key observations from New Orleans Saints Training Camp: Day 16

Change of scenery leads to good work

1. Sweet Setup: Greetings from beautiful Costa Mesa, Calif. The New Orleans Saints have two joint practices against the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday and Friday at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex. Before we get into the football aspect of Thursday's practice, I thought it would be important to set the scene for you. First of all, obviously, the weather. The entire practice was conducted under crystal clear skies and a extremely comfortable temperature of 71 degrees with a light west wind at 9:25 a.m. Pacific Time. As far as the practice fields, there are two, the one closest to the large aluminum bleachers on the west side is where the Chargers worked individually, then an east field where the Saints would go through their individual drills. Both fields are tightly cut Bermuda grass, exactly the same as the outside fields at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center on Airline Drive. As mentioned, the large roofed aluminum bleachers went up about 20 rows and consisted of Charger fans. There were also individual tents for VIPs on both sides, and a media workspace under two tents adjacent to the west field.. Speakers were around both fields as a DJ was continuously playing music throughout the two-hour practice. As the teams broke off and practiced situationally against each other, the Saints one and two offense went up against the Chargers' No. 1 and No. 2 defense on the east field, and on the west field closest to the big stands, it was the Chargers' No. 1 and No. 2 offense against the Saints' No. 1 and No. 2 defense. There were some Saints fans in attendance, and they were mostly leaning over the railing of the east field yelling encouragement to the Saints players when they made a nice play. There was also a live marching band playing in the southwest corner of the west field under a tent before and after the practice. All in all, it's a great place to hold these practices, and the weather is absolutely ideal. As an aside, a majority of the Chargers had their sleeves rolled up, and some even mentioned that it was a very warm day for Costa Mesa, to which Saints defensive end Cam Jordan laughed and said they had no idea what they were talking about in comparison to the practices back in New Orleans.

2. Welcome Back! With the team traveling to Orange County, some Saints who have been absent at practice recently were seen on the field today Thursday. The most noticeable right away was linebacker Demario Davis, who dressed and participated on a limited basis still coming back from a calf injury. Davis would later move to the field behind the east one and worked with a trainer. Guard Andrus Peat also returned after missing the last 17 days with a quad injury. Peat was also limited but participated in all individual drills. Running back Kendre Miller returned to the practice field after a sprained knee during the preseason game vs. the Chiefs last Sunday. Miller would not participate in team drills and was wearing a brace on the right knee but ran very well during the individual drills Tight end Lucas Krull returned to practice after injuring his tailbone a couple of weeks ago, as well as running back Kirk Merritt (hamstring). Not seen on Thursday was Taysom Hill, who injured an oblique during the afternoon practice on Tuesday. Guard Cesar Ruiz was at practice with a jersey on but did not participate, likewise wide receiver Rashid Shaheed. Wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith also did not practice.

3. Olave Cooking and Play(s) of the Day: We really should just name a daily Key Observation for Saints wide receiver Chris Olave. We'll give the awards at the end of training camp, but as of Thursday, the offensive MVP is Olave. On Thursday, it was another banner day for the former first round pick from Ohio State. He especially shined during one-on-one drills, specifically against Chargers defensive back Asante Samuel Jr. On the second play of one-on-ones, Olave went up the field and out to the right sideline, but had the ball knocked away by Samuel. However, a flag was thrown (there were referees present) for defensive pass interference on Samuel. Olave and Samuel would then jaw back and forth a little bit heading back to their respective sides. That would set up the next matchup, seven reps later. Olave would run a go route up the right sideline and just blaze right pass Samuel, gaining three steps on him. Carr's pass was absolutely perfect, hitting the receiver in stride for an easy 50-yard touchdown. Olave would make a play on all three passes thrown to him the rest of the period, two against Samuel, including a 50-yard post route after a double move against the beleaguered cornerback for yet another touchdown. It will be fun to see how this matchup shakes out during Friday's practice and possibly during the game Sunday. Full disclosure, I did not watch the Saints defense against the Chargers offense as that was on the other field, but Saints linebacker Nephi Sewell stripped the ball Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, leading to a scoop and score by cornerback Marshon Lattimore and DeMarco Jackson recorded an interception against Chargers quarterback Easton Stick. I will be focusing on Saints defense vs Chargers offense during Friday's practice.

Full coverage of the New Orleans Saints workouts during 2023 Training Camp presented by Rouses Markets on Thursday, August 17.